For a moment there, I thought we were in the 21st century. But nope. Seems I was wrong. Apparently we’re back in the good old 1950s. At least that’s what you’d be led to believe by the terrible sexism in the media recently.
On Friday, Rebekah Brooks gave evidence to the Leveson inquiry. That’s right. One of the leading figures in British media today gave evidence to a judge about the regulation of the press. She talked about her links to prime ministers and the Met Police, about phone hacking, about NewsCorps bid for BskyB – all pretty important stuff, I think you’ll agree.
The Evening Standard, however, thought it was vital we knew what Mrs Brooks looked like as she gave evidence.
She “sashayed” into court, wrote political editor Joe Murphy. She wore a black dress that “rode cheekily above the knee” and her hair was a “rich, dense, wild waterfall of auburn curls”.
Do you see where I’m going with this? But wait. It gets better.
Brooks “fixed her huge, hollow, rapidly-blinking eyes” on Robert Jay QC, who was asking the questions. In fact, she “gazed seductively at him” and Joe Murphy couldn’t work out what she was up to. “Flirting?” he asked. “Or trying to faze him?” At a guess, Mr Murphy, I’d say she was listening. Maybe you should try it?
It’s a shame Andy Coulson’s evidence, the day before, wasn’t written about in the same way. Did his shirt ride up as stood up, exposing a narrow band of taut stomach? Did the lights in the courtroom reflect off his receding hairline as he bowed his head in contrition? As he took off his glasses, did his wide eyes fill with tears? Possibly. But we don’t know about that because it’s not important. Because Andy Coulson is a man.
And I’m not even going to start on the front-page headline that declared Brooks: My time with PMs. How clever those Standard subs are. Look! Hilariously it looks like it’s her time of the month. Oh, that explains why she’s so prickly…
What’s annoying about this, is the blatant, outdated sexism certainly. But as with the abuse Louise Mensch received on Twitter it blurs the real issue. Suddenly Mensch’s support for Rupert Murdoch (he is a “great newspaper man” she said) faded into the background. And certainly I suddenly feel like Brooks is a victim. And I don’t like feeling like that. Because she most definitely is not a victim.
Treating women like this – judging them on their appearance or treating them differently from how a man would be treated in the same position – is a really effective way of shutting them up. What they’re saying gets lost in a maelstrom of arguments about sexism or just in the general fluff about what their hair looks like.
Joe Murphy at the Standard should be ashamed of himself. But, while there’s no way I could have ignored it, I’m a little bit ashamed of rising to his bait.
As an aside…
Similarly, the Sunday Times magazine yesterday featured an interview with Karren Brady. She’s vice-chair of West Ham United FC. She’s been on the board at Mothercare, Arcadia Group, Sport England and Channel 4. She was involved with England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup. She was running Birmingham City FC when she was 23. Oh, and she’s on The Apprentice. So how did the Sunday Times trail the interview? Sugar’s babe. That’s how. I have no words.